Sound Transit bureaucrats are normally very excited to have their media relations folks talk at length at what the agency is doing. Except, perhaps, when the agency has a problem.
It turns out that Sound Transit officials sat on some pretty interesting information for quite some time earlier this year. Last week, agency officials admitted that a drill (nicknamed Pamela) was damaged and forced to stop 650 feet north of the future University District Station, where it was being used on a new light rail project. The drill started up again last Thursday…. after a whopping six weeks of moving absolutely nowhere.
The drill was forced to stop on December 28. Not wanting any comparisons to Bertha, the non-functioning tunnel boring machine on the Highway 99 project, Sound Transit made no mention of the breakdown. Indeed, by every indication, it appears as though officials purposefully hid the incident from the public. Via the Seattle Times,
“The agency didn’t announce the breakdown or report it to elected officials for six weeks. In the highway project, state highway officials were roundly criticized after their month long lag in disclosing details about the Dec. 6, 2013 stall of their machine, in particular the presence of an abandoned steel pipe in Bertha’s path.
“Asked why the agency sat on bad news, Sound Transit spokeswoman Kimberly Reason said contractors initially thought the damage was less extensive, involving just a single motor, until later when they disassembled more components.
“‘After four or five weeks, it was finally determined the bull gear had hairline fractures and cracks,’ she said.”
Sound Transit’s explanation is not only weak, but it also demonstrates how little agency officials respect the idea of transparency. Part of the problem is that an unelected, unaccountable body of local officials governs the board. These officials control a huge amount of taxpayer dollars. Yet, they operate unchecked by voters. So, they think they can get away with keeping a project breakdown away from taxpayers.
Of course, the true reason why Sound Transit decided to keep the problem a secret has a lot more to do with public relations than not knowing the cause of the problem. The public has had its fill of stories regarding the incompetency of transportation agencies in our states. From the lack of progress on the Highway 99 project to the disastrous I-405 tolling scheme, incompetency abounds.
Certainly, Sound Transit is no stranger to incompetency issues. But, this year, Sound Transit wants to pass the so-called “ST3”, a $15 billion package that may become a $27 billion package. The agency could not afford to be caught up in the cloud of controversy, so it decided to keep the truth from taxpayers.
Wonder if anyone will remember this trick this fall?
Want to know what it has been hiding for years? The tax cost of its financing plan. The board pledges scores of billions of dollars of future sales tax impositions just to secure its long term debt. That abusive financing plan its unaccountable board members set into place will result in FAR heavier taxing than could be needed for capital costs and operational subsidies. Go ahead — try finding an accurate estimate of the tax cost. That information is buried deep in the silo.
Mark Smith says
Business as usual for the Rulers…… Non elected appointees who seem to have life time appointments can do what ever they wish to do since there is NO ACCOUNTABILITY to anyone.. Even the KIN will back them up as he did today with his big announcement that the tolls are here to stay regardless of the peoples desire…. did he actually forget who the boss is?
NW SeattleGuy says
Actually this was already published regarding the breakdown. This isn’t news.